Page images
PDF
EPUB

witness against men who were once their brethren-of overthrowing the system of Methodism, and of being the executioners of the vengeance of heaven-is it, we ask them, befitting the character of their awful commission to do it laughing, and in the midst of mirth and joy? A practised hangman may feel a thrili of joy at the thought of putting the wages of his office into his pocket, and the habiliments of his victim on his wretched body, whilst that victim is writhing in the agonies of death; but although the spectators may assent to the justice of the sentence, they mourn over the fate of the man. We tell these happy hangmen-for they all profess to be wondrously happy—that this feeling is infallibly symptomatic of a weak and foolish, a diseased and fanatic, or of a cruel and ferocious mind.

With this happy miller we classed the Rey. James Lamb-alias! a Clonite preacher -alias ! a Wesleyan preacher-alias! a sick and poor supernumerary-alias! a stipendiary on the preachers' legalized fund, bought off at the cost of two hundred pounds

-alias ! as soon as this bargain was settled and the money pocketed, a delegate at Manchester-alias ! a hired preacher at the Music Hall, Liverpool. But it is not exactly with Mr. Lamb's Clonite and consequent church of England profession—nor yet with his ministry amongst the Wesleyansno, nor even with his declining health, his dependance on the preachers' fund, his bargain with it to give up all claims for the consideration of two hundred pounds, and the manner in which he performed his part of the agreement: neither have we any thing to do just now with Mr. Lamb's sudden restoration to good health-capacity to take a long journey, make eloquent speeches, and enter into a new bargain with the Liverpool wiseacres, with, we presume, the prospect of being able to fulfil his ministry; with none of these things have we any thing to do just at present, but our business being with his delegation, we do take the liberty to ask Mr. Lamb who sent him, what constituency he may happen to represent, and what Irish interests he is come over to support ? Above all, we wish to know in what character he intends to appear before the Conference? If we understand the matter rightly, he, together with Mr. Emmett, are both Wesleyan preachers, have their names on their Minutes, and are amenable to its tribunals. It seems by their assuming the oft ce of delegate, that they waive their rights as preachers; but will the Conference admit this plea? Mr. Emmett tells us in his speech that he was on his way to the superintendent to resign, but he was arrested in his career by some local brother, who kindly dissuaded him from doing so just then, because they wanted a head of opposition at the approaching quarterly meeting-(we wonder what the tail of radicalism in the Stockton circuit can be with such a head)- he was prevailed upon to desist, and he tells us that he appeared at this grand central meeting in the double character of a Methodist preacher and a delegate. We believe this to be the case with Mr. Lamb also. These two reverend gentlemen then, it appears, intend to be delegates to themselves as well as to others. We think they ought to have had the fairness to have made their election of one of these offices only; and as they have not, we imagine the first thing Conference will do will be to untwist these two functional cords for them; and having made the preacher stand out a separate being from the delegate, cause him to answer for the injuries he has done the cause of Methodism. But after all, there does not appear much malice prepense in the speech of this Mr. Lamb. His soul does not seem very deeply saturated with the Association venom. There are many kinds of Irishmen. Amongst others, adventurers of all sorts, who forsake their own country in search of better fortunes in England. We really attribute no worse feeling to Mr. Lamb than that after having done his best, and made his last and final bargain in the Emerald Isle, he concluded that better fortunes awaited him at Manchester. Stimulated by this urgent motive he crossed the channel to begin the new avocation of revolution, and he has met with the reward his patriotism sought, by now being the stipendiary preacher of the Association at the Music Hall.

The next gentleman we mention as belonging to the class of pseudo preachers is the Rev, John Gordon. This young hero of the Association commenced his ministry with great eclat, a few years ago, as the son of a gentleman, a yoạth of education, of great native powers of mind, and as a person to whom the connexion might look with .confidence as one of its most hopeful ministers and pillars. How often it is found either from some constitutional flaw, mental defect, or else by the just ordination of God

that the child of hope and promise disappoints the expectations of admiring friends, while the unpretending, but pious, persevering, and naturally vigorous in intellect, gradually emerge from lowliness and obscurity, and become, by the peculiar providence and blessing of God, what the others appeared destined to be the ornaments of the church! The ministry of Mr. Gordon was a complete failure ; and whether he concluded that he had mistaken his calling from this circumstance or not, we are unable to say ; but we find that a few months ago he chose to be offended with the proceedings

of Conference on the Rev. J. R. Stephen's case, sent in his resignation, and took his father's business of spirit merchant, wholesale and retail. Some things fall out very opportunely; and the incidents connected with this gentleman's retirement from the ministry are of this description. We have a concatenation of accidents of a most harmonious kind to bring about Mr. Gordon's offence and consequent resignation.The anti-church propensities of J. R. Stephens, and the decision of Conference in his case, are the proximate causes of his umbrage and considering himself at liberty to abandon that ministry which he had professed to receive from God. Then in connection with his present settlement, we have his father's ability to retire from business, his inclination to do so at this particular period, and the business itself in that state of preparation as to allow one occupant to abandon it and another to take possession, without any lengthened negociation. The adaptation of these events one to another have all the appearance of design and arrangement; and yet we are given to understand that Mr. Gordon's abandonment of his connection with the Methodist ministry and his occupancy of his present spirit trade depended on the contingency of J. R. Stephen's case. It may be so; but it surpasses our capacity of credulity. We believe that circumstance was made the apology for a step previously thought of, desired, and in all probability, resolved upon. But why do we dwell on these matters—what, we shall be asked, have they to do with the question in debate ? We tell our readers at once they have nothing to do with the principle of the controversy, but much with its circumstances. For instance: Mr. Gordon, and all the rest of the anarchists, endeavour to fix on Methodism the stigma of doing something so offensive to their purity and liberality, as to force them to take their hostile attitude. Mr. Gordon tells us the proceedings of Conference on a given case compelled him to resign his office of preacher, and become a tradesman and an agitator. We tell him honestly we doubt it; that from all the concurrent facts of the transaction, we believe that other inducements led to this choice; and that to charge other parties with the guilt of compelling him to abandon his pastoral profession, and take to that of selling gin and furiously rending the church of God, is both disingenuous and false. We believe Mr. Gordon has resigned his office of a preacher formally, and that he consequently does not stand in the attitude of the two last mentioned gentlemen-a delegate from himself to himself. We admit that Mr. Gordon is a bona fide delegate. He is the chosen representative of the Dudley anti-Methodist society; or if he please, of the mixed multitude he describes in his speech. We suppose, in this notable meeting, we have a living and graphic illustration of “the popular interference and control,” contended for in Mr. Gordon's formal principle, passed at the delegate meeting and contended for in all his speeches and letters. How strangely does radicalism transform the human character! Who would have thought, some few years ago, that a young man of John Gordon's polite bearing, courtesy, gentlemanly manners, and apparent good breeding, could be now found, not only to lend himself, but actually to conjure up and create the most brutal assembly-taking his own account of the case we ever read of, calling itself Christian ? He will not believe us, of course; but it is true, that our heart mourns when we think of what he once was, and what in the dawn and spring solstice of his life all his friends—the dearest of whom now in heaven, fondly hoped he would be—that he should be now the head and leader of such a scene as he describes at Dudley. We really know not on what principles to account for these monstrous transmutations of character. We know indeed that a strange mixture of logic and laughter were blended in the mental constitution of this young gentleman; that the solution of some metaphysical problem, or a good piece of fun would be an equal temptation to him; but we did really imagine that good breeding or good feeling would have preserved him from leading a meeting which will be considered by moderate men, of all parties, as an insult and an outrage on even the decencies of society. What does Mr. Gorden represent in his character of delegate ? We presume the meeting mentioned in his speech forms his constituency. So then he has the taste to avow himself as the type and living expression of a set of men, opinions, feelings, and conduct, that would be a disgrace to so many savages in New Zealand. Let him wear his honour-no one will envy him. We cannot believe that even the civilized part of the Association itself, can approve of the savage violence of the Dudley associates. There are indeed odd kinds of Christians belonging to this confederacy; but really we cannot think that any great number from amongst those parts of the country which have, for any length of time, been favoured with British knowledge and freedom, can feel complacency in the outrage committed on order and decency, by these said Herculaneum men of Dudley. Bebold John Gordon coming forward at Sheffield, the representative and advocate of popular rights, and, especially, the right of “all the members of society to interfere in the working of the entire system of the connexion,” and especially in the discharge of the ministerial office, and the administration

[graphic]
[graphic]

of discipline; how gloriously he can illustrate and enforce his argument by the display of Christian piety, prudence, courtesy, and fair dealing by his constituents, in the case in question ! He has not only abstract justice on his side; but now he can prove to deinonstration, that the democratic principle he got the delegates to adopt at Manchester, will, in practice, work most effectually. Most effectually it wrought in Dudley certainly, for as to rule, law, fair debate, impartial judgment, poor Messrs. Ed. wards and Frankland, all went to the dogs together, by the vociferous clamour and physical force of a thousand men, pressing round two unprotected preachers, and, to use Mr. Gordon's own phrasé,“ calling them every thing indifferent:" We are fond of the inductive test, and here we have it. We behold religious democracy under the guidance of one of its most noted leaders, actually trampling down every thing before it, like a herd of elephants pressing beneath their brawny bodies all the lighter material which might happen to stand in their path. This first demonstration of popular purity and moderation is a good beginning; only let the connexion be placed under its sway, and it will soon be purged of its impurities and piety both; for, in fact, all the pious and good would flee, if not for their lives, yet for their religion, and would either form themselves into separate societies, or unite with other churches wherein they might, without molestation, enjoy the privilege of divine worship and Christian communion.

With what consistency Mr. Gordon can desire to go as a delegate to the Methodist Conference, and hold any kind of intercourse with men whom, by a set of vulgar figures, he represents as dishoncst, pick-pockets, and murderers,” we are at a loss to conceive. They will, however, know how to appreciate his representation of their character, as well as his own exploits at Leeds, Liverpool, Hull, and many other places; and as we are not yet obliged, by any law of the country, to hold companionship with men who have maligned us, we have only to say, that, if Metho. dist preachers are mean enough to have communication with him, except for the purpose of heartily receiving his resignation, they will deserve the character he has given them, which is one of the basest and blackest which a tortuous and vindictive mind could possibly invent. We have one word more respecting Mr. Gordon and his Dudley friends; it is—if the Conference received him as their representative, it would be on the avowed or tacit acknowledgment of them as Methodists. Will any men, we ask, who have the least respect for either their own character, or religion, ever identify themselves with such a race? To save themselves from being classed with creatures as rough and as sooty as the locality they inhabit, they will beg to be excused. To admit a fraternity with these black bears would be to allow themselves to be of their species ; but if the soi disant Methodists of Dudley were a sample of the true stock, we should consider it a blessing to the nation and the world, that the race should become extinct as soon as possible. We, for our parts, would chaunt a requiem of peace to its manes, and heartily pray that the day might be very distant when any thing, bearing the Christian name, should again live after the fashion and similitude of Dudley Association Methodism.

We do not recollect the names of the parties who appeared as the delegates of Manchester, Liverpool, and other places, and who, we presume, are to assemble in that character at Sheffield. But though we disapprove of these principles and proceedings in toto, and maintain, that in their present position, as Associates, they have no right to appear in the garb and under the name of Methodists; yet we do admit that they hold a much more honourable position than the men who were, as ministers, pledged by a thousand obligations and vows to promote the peace, unity, prosperity, and well-being of the connexion. The holiness, responsibility, and duties of the sacred ministry rested on them; and, instead of leading the simple-hearted and pious members of the societies astray, filling their minds with unfounded jealousies, fixing and directing their animosity against men and a system which have led them to salvation; and, moreover, we fear, in innumerable cases endangering their peace and stability, were bound by every consideration to guard against consequences so fearful;—we say, these ministerial leaders of the van of division ought to be singled from the general mass, and branded with a mark of special guilt. When the Manchester revolt began, Dr. Warren informed his deluded followers that his suspension was illegal, and on that fallacious opinion, assumed that he remained the rightful superintendent of the first circuit, formed opposition leaders' meetings, provided separate places of worship, organized a new plan of operation on the platform of the old circuit, and leading the people into these serarate inclosures and this independent communion, in which they renounced all fellowship with established Methodism—he taught them to believe that they were good and valid members still. This was the case in Liverpool and elsewhere; so that the grand artifice employed with the people has been to delude them into the opinion, that they re

mained members of society, and had a right to all its privileges. Now we hold that there is an essential difference betwixt the guilt of the deceived and that of the deceiver. No doubt, great numbers in the two principal towns of the secession consider, at this moment, that they are legitimate members of the Wesleyan society, and are in circumstances to send delegates to Conference. The question turns on two points ; the first is, whether or not belonging to the Association is a violation of the rules and economy of the body and the second is, whether, on the proof of its being a violation of law, they can have the right to go to Conference, not for a redress of grievances, which we admit, but as a separate and independent body, to negotiate an entire change of the economy of the connexion.

With regard to the first question, we need not spend time in proving the affirmative; for most of the leading members of the Association have repeatedly confessed, that their proceedings were a transgression of the law as it stood; and, in addition to this, every organized body, whether civil or religious, must have the right to defend itself against those aggressions, which, on the face of them are calculated, and, on the ayowals of the agitating parties, are intended to destroy

the social compact. This law of nature, and the common law of society, may, in many cases, be the only rules of action, because the ingenuity of transgressors may enable them to devise schemes of revolution which may not fall within the limits of statute law. Many of the most important trials which have taken place in our courts, on cases of riot, agitation, and revolution, have rested on this non scripta lex of society. This is exactly the case with this Association. Its avowed objects have been to subvert the present order of Methodism. They may consider it an evil and wicked system ; but its ministers, local authorities, and the great body of its people may judge it to be scriptural and useful. Then they must possess the rights of self-defence, and if the agitating party determine not to coalesce-to live in peace and unison with the body; but, on the other hand, manifest a fixed purpose to employ their privilege to destroy the fellowship itself, then it must be the clear right of the society to separate such elements of revolution ; for if they remain, they keep it in constant agitation, and ultimately reduce it to a state of ruin.

Then, irrespective of the written law of the connexion, it is most clear that the Association has placed itself beyond the pale of the constitution of Methodism. But besides the common law, and scriptural justice of the case, thus stated, the connexion having had to pass through trials of a somewhat similar nature, had armed itself with regulations and rules suitable to the emergency. Not a man amongst the agitators could be ignorant of the fact, that his union with the Association was a gross violation of the rules by which he professed to be governed. These rules are valuable; but had they not existed, the separation of men from the society, who were disturbing its peace, crippling its energies, and endangering its existence, would, on the obvious principles of common justice, and the Word of God, been equally righteous. But this removal of the members of the Association from the societies, is,-in most cases, a perfectly voluntary act. The people in the First Manchester circuit chose to follow their guide, Dr. Warren, and we do not recollect that any act of discipline was exercised, except in his own case. In the other circuits of that town, a few revolutionary officers, who judged it to be their calling to agitate and divide the societies, were for these overt acts of sin and schism, expelled from their brethren, and the rest voluntarily followed. In Liverpool, the ring-leaders of the revolt alone, were, in the first instance, selected; and up to the termination of the process of separation, very few were called to trial-all the rest left the societies by their own choice, preferring to remain with their leaders, and to breathe the warm atmosphere of agitation, rather than continuo peacefully united in the old body. The facts, then, are few and simple; a number of officers of the society, have been expelled for a gross and outrageous violation of its laws-breaking its unity-seeking to revolutionize its polity-and, as it turns out by Dr. Warren's confession, if necessary, rather than stop short of their purpose, destroying Methodism, root and branch. As must always be the case in public bodies, these men had influence sufficient to attach a number of private members to themselves, and these, following the banners of their leaders, placed themselves in a state of open division and independence of the society. The question as to the non-legality of the separa. tion of the other parties cannot be raised, for it is their own act. “They went out from us, because they chose not to be of us.” If the comparatively few who had - been expelled had felt their sentence to be unjust, they had their appeal; but not choosing to avail themselves of this right, and preferring agitation to a quiet recourse to reason and law, they have, to all intents and purposes, placed themselves beyond its redress,

It being thus evident that the Association is in a state of separation; and, with the exception of the few persons who were expelled, by their own revolutionary act. how does it appear that they are in a condition to send delegates to the Methodist Conference. They have ceased to belong to the society, and have also established themselves as a distinct community; and yet they claim the liberty to interfere in its affairs. They act on a supposed right to elect delegates to establish a grand compact be. twixt themselves and the Conference-having for its object, the elevation of their own power, and the entire subserviency of the connexion to their views. No one denies them the liberty to legislate; but let them limit their functions to the Association. Methodist societies do not choose them, but parties in a state of avowed hostility; and how they can imagine they have the right to appear in their present character as Wesleyan delegates, we are at a loss to conceive.

But although the objection against these parties being considered an integral part of the Methodist body is sufficiently apparent, and must nullify their right to act as negotiators, yet the aggressive and coercive attitude they have assumed from the beginning renders it ten-fold more so. To say the least, their first ought to have been their last measure. If dissatisfied with the economy of Methodism, they ought to have proposed their own improved edition, supported by argument-appeals to Scripture-proofs and demonstrations of the corruption and oppression of the system as it is and then, if their arguments were incapable of disproof, aud their demands refused, it would have been time enough to have sounded the tocsin of war. Instead of this rational and Christian course being adopted, the first appeal they make to the passions of the people is at a time when no power on earth existed competent to consider the subject of any alteration; they couple the first enunciation of their views and opinions, as to what reforms they demand, with language of reproach and intimidation; assert that no honest man can continue in union with the Conference; that they will stop the supplies, and agitate the connexion to its centre; and they forthwith form themselves into a “Grand Central Association” for these purposes. Surely it would have been sufficient to have resorted to these outrageous measures as a last refuge from opposition. They have kept their word, and sent their emissaries of mischief through every part of the country where they could gain access. The contest has not been a contest of reason, principle, and religion, but it has been the war of faction and outrage. Instead of seeking the reformation of the polity first, and then, on its obstinate refusal to yield to their skill, its dissolution, as an incorrigible abuse, they seek its entire overthrow as a primary proceeding, with the intention, we presume, of building a beautiful fabric out of the chaos they have occasioned. Is this Association in a state to send delegates to a body which it has attempted thus utterly to subyert by a revolutionary process ? Failing in their attempt, they modestly propose that the injured party shall kindly let them into their house and afford them facilities to do by their connivance and aid what they find they cannot do by open force-grind the beautiful frame of the Wesleyan polity into the dust of democracy, to be trampled upon by the feet of the multitude.

But there are some very curious facts, not yet mentioned, respecting the composition of this pseudo delegate meeting, which we have left ourselves little room to notice. Besides the gentlemen who were not Methodists, and never had been, we find a whole sect of separatists admitted. We refer to the so-called Protestant Methodists, with Messrs. Sigston and Matthew Johnson as their representatives.These parties have been divided from the connexion for the past seven years, have formed for themselves a separate code of laws and government, have poured forth their foul-mouthed abuse in every variety of epithet, have done their utmost to degrade, divide, and ruin the connexion; and true to the animus of their cause, as soon as a new occasion for mischief arises, they stand forth again on the stage. Growing bold by success, these practised adepts at agitation appear amongst the new comers with striking superiority. They insist on an equality of rights and power with them, and even before they are admitted, formally compel the novel dunces to compromise the fair and impartial consideration of the case on which they had met, by avowing that the only ground on which they could unite and afford their counsel and strength was that of admitting the principle of lay delegation. We have nothing to say respecting the right of these two parties to amalgamate. Let them do it if they please; but pray, in what sense can Messrs. Sigston and Matthew Johnson be considered Wesleyan delegates ? They have founded a church after their own heart's desire, and it has now been in operation some years. To our certain knowledge it has worked admirably; for it has purged off the feculant humours of the Leeds societies to such a degree as to restore them to a state of health, vigour, and fruitfulness never enjoyed before. -Why are not these protestors content with the grandeur of their exploits and the fruits of their patriotic zeal? We know-for we know the men. It would as ill suit the genus of their religion to find a state of peace, and to cultivate the gentler graces of religion, as it would suit the salamander to live out of the fire. We wonder

« PreviousContinue »